General Sir William Medows KB (31 December 1738 – 14 November 1813) was an Englishman and a general in the British Army.
Sir William was the son of Philip Medows, deputy ranger of Richmond Park, and Lady Frances Pierrepont, daughter of the Duke of Kingston-upon-Hull.
He entered the British Army as an ensign in the 50th Regiment of Foot in 1756. In 1760 he went with his regiment to join the allied army under Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, who as Frederick the Great’s lieutenant was defending western Germany against the French. Medows remained in Germany till March 1764. In 1769 he obtained the lieutenant-colonelcy of the 5th Regiment of Foot, exchanging in September 1773 into the 12th Light Dragoons.
In 1770, Medows enjoyed a romantic friendship with his second cousin, Lady Louisa Stuart, then aged thirteen, a daughter of John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute. Medows was then forty-one, and Lord Bute considered him unsuitable and put a stop to it. Lady Louisa was bitterly disappointed, and never married. Later the same year, Medows married another lady, Frances Augusta Hammerton.
In 1775 Medows again exchanged into the 55th Regiment of Foot, which was on the point of starting for America, to act against the revolted colonists. He distinguished himself at the Battle of Brandywine in 1777, and again in the Battle of St. Lucia in 1778.
He returned to Great Britain in 1780, and was now made colonel of the 89th regiment. Medows held a high command in the expedition sent out under Commodore Johnstone against the Cape of Good Hope in 1781. A skirmish occurred with the French admiral, Suffren, (also bound for the Cape) at Porto Praya in the Cape Verde Islands on 16 April 1781, and on arriving at the Cape of Good Hope the British found that Suffren had anticipated them and landed such strong reinforcements that an attack would be useless. Johnstone now decided to return to Europe. Medows, however, having heard that the British in the south of India were being hard pressed by Haider Ali, sultan of Mysore, sailed with three of the ships and a large body of troops to Madras (now Chennai), where he arrived on 13 February 1782. He accompanied Colonel William Fullarton in an expedition from Madras against Mysore, but the sudden conclusion of peace soon put a stop to the campaign.
In September 1788 Medows received the posts of Governor of Bombay and commander-in-chief of the Bombay Army. He remained here till January 1790, when he was transferred to become Governor of Madras. A war with Tipu Sultan, Hyder Ali’s son and successor as sultan of Mysore, had arisen, and Lord Cornwallis, the governor-general, now instructed Medows to open the campaign. Starting from Trichinopoli at the head of fifteen thousand men on 15 June 1790, Medows crossed the frontier into Mysore, and advanced in a westerly direction. On 22 July the army arrived at Coimbatore, which was found evacuated by the enemy. While he was able to secure the district, he spread his forces too thinly, and Tipu counterattacked against the smaller detachments, and Medows was forced to withdraw his forces to a few strong points in late 1790.
Lord Cornwallis then announced his intention of undertaking sole command of the British army. Medows served under Cornwallis through the campaigns of 1791 to 1792, and commanded the right column in the night attack on the Seringapatam redoubts on 6 February 1792. His attack was misplaced; in the dark of night he ended up capturing a different fortification than the one intended; in doing so, he dangerously exposed the British flank. Tipu attacked the weak point, and very nearly recovered his position, slightly wounding Cornwallis in the process. Tipu eventually sued for peace, and the fighting ended on 25 February while terms were negotiated. The next day, Medows attempted suicide, inflicting three bullet wounds on himself. While the reason for this is unknown, Cornwallis never blamed Medows for his actions on 6 February.
Peace was eventually agreed, with Tipu agreeing to the Treaty of Seringapatam on 18 March. Medows resigned the prize-money (nearly £5,000) which fell to his share and distributed it among the troops. He left for Great Britain in August 1792.
On 14 December of that year he was made a Knight of the Bath, on 12 October 1793 he was made a lieutenant-general, and in November 1796 he was appointed to the command of the 7th dragoon guards. At the brevet promotion of 1 January 1798 he was made a general and received the post of Lieutenant-Governor of the Isle of Wight. In 1801 he succeeded Cornwallis for a short space as Commander-in-Chief, Ireland.
He died at Bath in 1813.